House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parties.

Topics

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, it is also my pleasure to rise in debate on Bill C-24 about which, if I am not mistaken, we are considering the second set of amendments. I also want to say right off that it seems absolutely normal, legitimate and desirable to me that this legislation be reviewed following the general election.

Why review the operation of an act after a trial period? Simply to determine whether the original objectives have been met, whether the act could be improved on and whether the desired objectives could be better met.

When it was put forward and debated in committee initially—it was later debated on numerous occasions in the media and the public—the idea was simply to democratize the party financing process as well as to correct a perception, often borne out in fact, about mismanagement or dishonesty in the dealings between donors and political parties concerning financing in general.

All too often, rightly or wrongly, the public has come to realize that those who initiate bills or private member's bills may unfortunately have done so, after being the object—I almost said the victim— of corporate donations of $5,000, $10,000, $50,000 or $200,000.

There have been many instances, in recent parliaments, of questionable situations. The bank merger bill comes to mind.

The government party introduced a bill respecting bank mergers. When we look at the current situation, we see that major Canadian banks are contributing $100,000, $200,000 and even $300,000 to the Liberal Party coffers. Our fellow citizens witnessing this situation are telling themselves that decisions are certainly made on the basis of these donations by large corporations.

What is true of banking institutions is also true of pharmaceuticals, steel, and industry in general, which makes generous donations to the Liberal Party. One can definitely wonder.

I am not suggesting nor stating that political decisions are always influenced by such donations from large companies or big corporations. I am saying that it is normal, up to a certain point, for the general public watching us to believe that these decisions may be influenced by such large sums of money given to the Liberal Party.

Bill C-24 attempts to correct this negative public perception of politics and the relationship between large companies and the political world.

But, more importantly, there are the recent scandals—and, after much thought, I am using the word scandal correctly—involving, for example, the sponsorship companies. The government gave untendered contracts to Groupaction, Everest and Lafleur Communications. New details are being uncovered every day. The longer the House sits, the more question periods there are, and the more scandals that will be discovered. It seems clear. This is happening more and more. Contracts of $500,000, $200,000 and $300,000 are being awarded to companies who are told, “Look, you have to remit 5%, 10% or 15%, depending on the size of the contract, to the Liberal Party's coffers”.

Perhaps, in terms of the first example, people may think that there is some wrongdoing going on among the large companies, the big corporations and the government. But when consulting firms, public relations companies and friends of the government take with one hand, deduct a certain amount and give with the other to the party in power, it seems essential, then, to rectify this type of political party financing. If we are to some small extent a banana republic, we must avoid any further transformation into a system that would be financed the way political parties were financed long ago or during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, this is still the case today in some countries that have a bad international reputation for the way they finance their election campaigns and their political parties.

This government has reached the bottom of the barrel with the schemes whereby companies give back part of their money to the government. In order to improve the situation before it went too far, the Prime Minister used what works well as inspiration. It is not perfect, there are no perfect, marvellous or paradisiac political systems, otherwise, everyone would adopt them.

In Quebec, what helped, to some degree, the reputation of political parties or politicians in general, was what is known as the René Lévesque act, which was passed in 1976-77. This was one of the first policies implemented after the election, in order to democratize the funding of political parties. Under the legislation, it is the eligible voters who fund political parties.

This form of funding for political parties has been around in Quebec for more than 20 years, for almost 30 years now, and there is no way that anyone would question it or backtrack on it.

Yes, we want to improve certain aspects of this legislation in Quebec that has been in place since then. Yes, we want to improve certain problems, but that does not mean that we question the fundamental principle of Quebec's democratic life being funded by contributions from individual citizens.

That is what Canada wants to do now; it is seen as a good thing, and it is a good thing. Some people, like members of the Canadian Alliance, have said, “We do not want citizens, through the government, to fund election campaigns or political parties”. It seems to me that it would be much simpler for democracy if funding came from citizens instead of from the Royal Bank of Canada, the National Bank, or big P.R. companies like National, that take money from the government and then give it back to the government. If that is a healthy democracy, if that is the modern way of giving political parties the tools and the elements they need to work, then we have not made any of the progress toward the 21st century that we should be able to expect.

In this end of session, after discussions in committee, the government has introduced a bill that is essential to follow up on events and to change the relationship between people and politicians, between business and politicians, this triumvirate in which we live.

If we look at the popularity ratings of the members of this House, we see that a considerable change is required to the way we operate, particularly the way we campaign.

When I sat in on some of the committee meetings on this bill, I heard Liberal MPs saying, “Yes, but now we will have trouble organizing $5,000-a-plate dinners with the PM as guest speaker”. Exactly. We will organize suppers for larger numbers of ordinary folks and will invite them to come to hear the party leaders speak. It seems to me perfectly normal for the Prime Minister or the party leaders, when they travel to major cities, not to just see the people who are able to afford to pay $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 for the opportunity of meeting them. They should meet others equally entitled to vote.

This is the intent of the bill we have before us today, and is why it indicates to us that we absolutely must look to the future.

Why a review after the election? As I have said, it needs to be revisited in order to make the necessary corrections. There has not been enough of this review process when it comes to other pieces of legislation, for instance the Official Languages Act, which have been in place for nearly 20 years and are absolutely not meeting their intended objectives.

This bill, and the others we will be considering, ought to be automatically subject to this review process, in order to improve them and achieve the objectives set when the discussions prior to their enactment were held.

Canada Elections Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join this debate today.

I would like to begin by thanking the members of the committee, members from all sides of the House and the staff of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs for their extraordinary work on this legislation. Like any other important piece of legislation, this bill has created a certain amount of controversy and a great deal of discussion.

The committee heard from almost 40 witnesses from across the country. We contacted at least another 40, perhaps 50, some of whom sent us written testimony and some who felt that their testimony, although we were interested in it, would not add to the discussion the committee had so far. That gives the House an idea of how closely these people had been following this important legislation.

It seems to me that the purpose of these changes to the Canada Elections Act, which, in principle, eliminate corporate and union donations and puts something in the place of those donations, have various purposes. One of them, which is very important to everybody here, is to increase confidence in the electoral system.

I think there is a perception, and I believe that it is almost entirely a perception, that large corporations and large unions unduly influence the system and influence members of Parliament operating in their ridings or here in the House of Commons. I think the bill would help take away that particular stigma.

However I think the bill would also increase confidence in the system and increase participation in the electoral system in some other ways.

With regard to participation, I think all members know that there has been a decline, not a large decline, but a significant decline in participation of voters in recent federal elections. That is almost entirely explained by a reduction in the number of people under the age of 30 participating. The age groups over the age of 30 are participating more or less as they always have, but younger people are not. I think that is a particularly unhealthy sign.

It is my hope that the legislation would encourage confidence and interest in those people. I will try to explain why. Sometimes in an election people come up to me and say that they simply cannot vote for me this time. They say that they do not believe it is worth their while voting for one of the other parties, so they will not be voting at all. Those people drop out of the system.

When I am faced with that kind of situation I always try to encourage them, first, to vote for a candidate who is in the race, but failing that I encourage them to go to the poll and to officially refuse their ballot. I explain to them that if they do that the numbers are recorded and at least someone knows that they went to the poll and refused the ballot, presumably because there was nobody for whom they could vote. If someone does not show up at the polls it is difficult to tell whether they were just sick or just disinterested. Only if they go to the polls and are recorded do we know if they have participated in the electoral process.

When I am faced with that situation in the future I will be able to say to voters that if they vote for one of the minor parties--with due respect, I am not using that in a pejorative sense--one of the smaller parties in the election, even though they will only get a handful of votes they will truly be helping them because in the future, between now and the next election, they will get a small amount of money for every vote that they receive across Canada. These would be parties like the Green Party, which appeared before our committee.

All 13 registered federal parties were invited to appear before the committee, parties like the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). Those parties, if they run a candidate, wherever they get a vote they will receive some support between elections.

Although I disagree with some of those parties, I strongly agree with the idea that a parliamentary system should generate new parties and there should be different parties in play out there. I believe the legislation would assist with that.

Millennium Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to announce today that one of my constituents, Karen Bees, has been chosen to receive a millennium excellence award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation.

The foundation was established to help Canadians meet the challenges of a rapidly changing economy and society by creating opportunities for them to pursue their post-secondary education.

Karen was selected as one of 37 Manitobans to receive this award based on a national competition for her academic performance, community service, leadership and interest in innovation. Karen, along with Kyla Pederson, Jennifer Pommer and Melissa Therrien, was also a recipient of my own Member of Parliament Canadian Student Award.

These students are dedicated and hard-working young people who give selflessly to their school and community, all the while maintaining high academic achievement.

On behalf of everyone in the House, I would like to congratulate Karen, Kyla, Jennifer and Melissa on their outstanding achievements and wish them all the best in the future.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Madam Speaker, the trade restrictions imposed on May 20 on all ruminants as a result of BSE are affecting farms and farm support workers across Canada. The beef and cattle industries continue to lose $11 million daily. Sheep and goat farmers are also being affected by the trade ban.

Last week I met with beef farmers on one of the many cattle farms in my riding and I have also received representations from the sheep farmers of eastern Ontario. They are hurting.

Tragically, the concerns of rural Canada do not even enter the Liberal radar screen.

While all this is going on, the internal strife within the Liberal Party remains the only issue about which the government actually cares. While not a nickel goes toward mitigating the crisis in rural Canada, the Liberals are suspending the rules of Parliament in order to ensure immediate passage of a law that will give the party a $9.1 million taxpayer funded gift on January 1 to make up for the fundraising shortfall caused by its leadership race.

Beef farmers and sheep farmers across the country deserve a higher spot on the government agenda than the internal concerns of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Millennium Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada created the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation in 1998 to assist Canadians in pursuing their post-secondary education goals. Each year through its bursary program, the foundation awards over 90,000 bursaries to Canadian students based on financial need.

Also, through its excellence award program, the foundation recognizes academic achievement, community service and interest in innovation with grants to hundreds of Canada's top students each year.

Again this year, it is my sincere pleasure to name two students from Oxford who will receive millennium excellence awards. I want to congratulate Jaclyn Rodenburg of College Avenue Secondary School and Kaitland Gray of Woodstock Collegiate Institute.

While the cost of post-secondary education is great, so too are the rewards. I am proud that through the excellence award program the federal government is helping Canada's top students reach those goals. I send my best wishes to Jaclyn and Kaitland.

P.J. Impex
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to congratulate a proud and successful Canadian company on the occasion of its 15th anniversary.

P.J. Impex of Montreal opened its doors in June of 1998 to begin serving clients in the food supply industry. Since that time, the company has enjoyed steady growth, rising to a position of leadership among Canada's food exporters. Today, with a multilingual and multicultural staff, along with a network of reputable suppliers, that leadership role is played out on the world stage. The company's reputation for making the safest and best quality food on the market available to clients in over 35 countries is testament to its international success. In short, millions of customers around the globe have come to rely on P.J. Impex's bond of quality assurance.

In closing, it should be said that it is thriving companies like this one that form the backbone of our economy and represent Canada proudly around the world. May this 15th anniversary be just one of many important milestones for P.J. Impex as it continues in its role as the strongest link in the international food supply chain.

National Maritime Day
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to bring to the attention of hon. members, National Maritime Day, which has been proclaimed for September 3 in the city of Belleville. On behalf of the hon. member for Prince Edward—Hastings, I am pleased to bring this issue to the attention of the House.

The resolution of the city of Belleville reads, “In peace and in conflict, ships and seafarers have held a special place in our nation's history”.

This resolution goes on to speak of the historic importance of seafaring in the history of both the European settlers of our region and country and the aboriginal peoples before them.

I ask all hon. members to join me in paying tribute to the countless Canadians who have a close attachment to our seafaring past and present and congratulating the city of Belleville on commemorating these historic roots.

Atlantic Institute for Market Studies
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has been awarded the Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award by the American Atlas Economic Research Foundation, an international honour for excellence in public policy work.

AIMS has won this prestigious award four times in just eight years, an impressive record of achievement.

AIMS was presented the award for its innovative project on Canadian health care reform. The study is a comprehensive proposal for reforming the Canadian health care system.

The report was written by: Dr. Brian Lee Crowley, the founding president of AIMS; Professor Brian Ferguson, University of Guelph; Dr. David Zitner, Dalhousie Medical School; and Brett Skinner, University of Western Ontario.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies deserves credit for its internationally recognized contribution to a more informed debate on health care for the 21st century.

Nunavut Youth Abroad Program
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, 20 Nunavut youth accepted into the Nunavut Youth Abroad Program will gather in Ottawa for orientation before travelling to their placements, which stretch from Calgary to Halifax as well as Botswana, Africa.

These young Nunavummiut range in age from 16 to 21 and come from 15 communities across Nunavut.

The Nunavut Youth Abroad Program is in its sixth year and is a very successful pre-employment program providing education through work and travel to the participants.

I would like to congratulate and thank all the volunteer board members, the mentors who guide the students through the program, as well as the very important funders and supporters.

I wish all the participants a wonderful summer of learning, broadening their horizon and having fun.

Comic Book for Peace
Statements By Members

June 10th, 2003 / 2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to bring to this House's attention, and particularly to the Prime Minister's attention, a project by the grade 6 students of École Jean XXIII in Repentigny.

At the instigation of their teacher, Évelyne Parent, and student teacher, Janie Lacombe, the pupils designed a comic book about peace and the effects of war on civilian populations.

Looking at this little masterpiece created by these young people, we can see their talent and their awareness of others, and appreciate how they have expressed their compassion for women and children, the innocent victims of armed conflict.

As the member for Repentigny, I thank Évelyne and Janie for their commitment and I congratulate Group 601 for their wonderful work in making others aware.

Millennium Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation provides over 900 scholarships to outstanding students across Canada.

This year Burlington students Brenna Dickison, Jayde Duncombe, Shirine Usmani, Amir Ali and Andrea Gulyas won millennium excellence awards. These bright young Canadians are among the most promising of our students entering post-secondary institutions this fall.

Since its creation in 1998, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation has recognized the achievements of Canada's top students, awarding some 3,600 millennium excellence awards. While these awards help these outstanding young people pursue their post-secondary education, at the same time the foundation is helping to ensure a bright future for Canada and Canadians.

I ask my colleagues to join me in congratulating all the recipients of this scholarship across Canada and especially Brenna, Jayde, Shirine, Amir, and Andrea from Burlington.

Way to go. Bonne chance les étudiantes.

Relay for Life
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, on June 7 I once again participated in the Relay for Life with teams of people who want to help beat cancer.

The Highland Valley Hoffers team, of which I am a proud member, raised nearly $18,000. I want to thank my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance caucus for contributing 1,000 of those dollars. In total, the relay teams raised an impressive $135,000.

This event would not be possible without the hundreds of volunteers who organize the event and the generous sponsorship of the Kamloops business community.

Personally, I walk in memory of my sister Doreen Buss and my girlfriend Laurie Benteau who lost their battle with cancer. I walk also for Ron Shindell, a neighbour I love, who will win his battle and join my colleague from Saskatoon--Rosetown--Biggar as a survivor.

Cancer can be beaten, and the people of Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys will lead the way.

Millennium Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure, and on behalf of my fellow citizens, that I salute the two winners from the riding of Hull—Aylmer who have received Excellence Awards. They are Katherine Charbonneau, a student at the Collège de l'Outaouais, and Sarah Lawrence, a student at Heritage College.

The Excellence Awards identify, support and encourage young men and women who stand out in terms of their academic achievement, leadership, and community involvement.

The Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation was created by an act of Parliament and, through it, all Canadians invest in the future leaders of our country and express their confidence in them.

These young women are undoubtedly among the most promising in the school system. My hearty congratulations to the winners in my riding; I wish them great success in their studies.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, Canada was a world leader in the fight for the 200 mile limit, but the 200 mile limit by itself has not been enough to stop the rapid decline in world fisheries resources. The recent cod fishery closure in eastern Canada, with all of its social and economic hardship, is the most recent example.

The current international fisheries conservation regime is long on promises but short on action. Something needs to be done. It is time for Canada to again take a leading role in developing a more comprehensive and enforceable fisheries conservation program on the international scene.

A nation is known not by the challenges it encounters but by the challenges it has the courage to take up. A hungry world is crying out for leadership on fisheries conservation while there are still some fish left. It is time for Canada to take up the challenge and answer the call.

Maison Grandi Ose
Statements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I am pleased to draw the attention of the House to the contribution of a organization in my riding to the community.

The Maison Grandi Ose in greater Trois-Rivières, Cap-de-la-Madeleine sector, is a leader in providing assistance to families of handicapped children. In addition to providing a recreation centre to handicapped children and their families, this organization offers respite to families who need a break.

This charitable organization par excellence—and it is very community-minded—is the first of its kind in Quebec and Canada.

I want to pay tribute to Dorothée Leblanc and all her associates who give the word dedication its true meaning. Thanks to Ms. Leblanc and her generous team for the love they provide to those in need.

At a time when all we hear about is bad news and war, Ms. Leblanc is a breath of fresh air, and she makes the world a better place. I wish her and the Maison Grandi Ose all the best.